Frankie and the Witch FingersPhoto by David Fearn, courtesy of Frankie and the Witch Fingers
Dylan Sizemore, guitarist and vocalist for garage-psych rockers Frankie and the Witch Fingers, likes to play a music game. It requires a little explanation, but once you understand the game you might decide you’re the sort of music listener who could appreciate what he and the surging L.A.-based band are sharing with the world. If you are, then you’re in luck since they’ll be playing a stacked bill at Continental Club this Sunday.
“Lyrically I tend to focus mostly on existentialism, the balance of dark and light and sex. I also really like songs that are self-referential. Like when a song describes what may be happening to the listener as they are listening. That's the kind of stuff that always trips me out, it's usually subtle, but I love to listen deeply to music like that,” Sizemore shared.
“I also really like music that is influenced by another band or may be even paying an homage to an artist, yet it still completely has its own original creativity and ideas,” he continued. “One of my favorite games to play by myself is listening to a song and then being able to pinpoint its exact influence. Of course, without talking to the artist you don't really know if it's an accident or not, but some are pretty spot on.
“I found a good one yesterday,” he said. “Listen to Kraftwerk ‘We Are the Robots’ a little into the beginning, and then listen to LCD Soundsystem ‘Sound of Silver.’ To me it sounds like the same little arpeggiated synth thing, in the same key.
“I guess what I mean by that rant is I create in the way that I like to absorb. I like theses nuances that you discover while exploring music and I try my best to apply them to what we're creating. At the end of the day, I just hope our music resonates in some capacity and people feel that we're authentic in our art.”
The band’s upside suggests that mission has been accomplished. It’s playing to solid crowds now, six years into its existence, which began in Bloomington, Indiana before a relocation to Los Angeles four years ago. A new album is being critically hailed and the group is supporting ZZ Top and Cheap Trick on October dates, in addition to playing major music fests like Desert Daze, Levitation and Freakout Festival.
The Houston show begins a busy tour run for the band which has U.S. and European dates slated until late November. The dates are in support of ZAM, which the band released in March. Paste Magazine said there’s “an unavoidable hypnotism” to the album’s tracks and Consequence of Sound has called their output “a swift kick in the ass for garage psych.”
“Our latest record, ZAM, is a bit of a sinister space odyssey that flirts with funk and kraut while still maintaining a pretty rock 'n roll pacing overall,” said Sizemore. “We've been diverting from our heavily garage-influenced past and focusing more on playing to one another’s individual styles and strengths. Because of this we've landed in a much more drum-centric, rhythmic sort of direction.
“Making this record was a bit of a marathon. We switched up our lineup and immediately wrote and recorded the album in about three months,” Sizemore said, adding that the current lineup includes Shaughnessy Starr on drums, Josh Menashe on lead guitar and vocals and bassist Alex Bulli. “In terms of what people take from the album, I really just hope it resonates in a meaningful way and isn't just another ‘psych album.’”
Sizemore said the band has “never played Houston before, but we're incredibly excited to do so!” And why not? The bill includes some of the state’s most promising psych rock acts. Austin psychedelic surf rockers Cosmic Chaos kick things off, followed by the fuzzed-out sounds of Galveston’s India Tigers in Texas. Flower Graves will be representing show-thrower Wallflower Records and Houston before giving way to the headliners.
“We met a few of the members of India Tigers in Texas in New Orleans last year and they were the sweetest folks. I still have a pretty yellow scarf they gave me that night,” Sizemore recalled. “If Houston is half as welcoming as they were then we're in for a real treat, to say the least.”
Some Houstonians have some awareness of Sizemore’s music predating Frankie and the Witch Fingers. He once was a solo artist in the DIY punk scene. He spoke openly about those days, what he learned from them and why he feels his best work has been as a member of a band.
Photo by Titoan Massé, courtesy of Frankie and the Witch Fingers
“It's funny, I don't normally like to talk about my solo music because I was a dumb, ego-filled kid and the music I liked then doesn't really hit me like it used to. In a lot of ways I'm a little embarrassed that it's out there,” he admitted. “However, lately I've been appreciative of the fact that the songs I wrote back then were therapeutic and helped grow my process as a songwriter. They were like training wheels for me and they helped me channel a lot of relationship struggles back then. The DIY punk scene was the most inspiring and pivotal point for me. Being surrounded by so many people that were creative and driven has carried on as an influence throughout the years.
“I don't think I could ever go back to playing solo, it’s just not the same. Playing with a group of individuals that speak the same musical language as you is one of the most ‘magick’ things out there, it's divine witchcraft,” he said.
Speaking of the bewitching, we couldn’t help but ask Sizemore how the band conjured its intriguing name. He confirmed Frankie is a cat friend of the band and the “witch fingers” are a reference to shadows the cat made on a wall once.
“Yes, ‘tis true, Frankie is a mystical feline entity. He lives with our best friend Virginia Perry in Ohio and is pretty much living the dream,” said Sizemore, who is living his own dream. “She sends me videos and pictures of him frolicking through the forest all the time. I used to sing him a little song about how awesome he is. I still sing it to myself sometimes knowing that he can transcend time and space and so he's definitely still with me everywhere I go.”
Frankie and the Witch Fingers, with Flower Graves, India Tigers in Texas and Cosmic Chaos will play Sunday, August 11 at the Continental Club, 3700 Main. Doors at 8 p.m., music at 9. $10.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.